13 October 2018

Archibald Lampman's 'October Sunset' in October



OCTOBER SUNSET
          One moment the slim cloudflakes seem to lean
          With their sad sunward faces aureoled,
          And longing lips set downward brightening
          To take the last sweet hand kiss of the king,
          Gone down beyond the closing west acold;
          Paying no reverence to the slender queen,
          That like a curved olive leaf of gold
          Hangs low in heaven, rounded toward the sun,
          Or the small stars that one by one unfold
          Down the gray border of the night begun.
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12 October 2018

Ce Soir à Montréal: The Louis Dudek Plaque



Tonight will see the Montreal Writers' Chapel 2018 plaque dedication.
This year's honouree is poet, critic and academic Louis Dudek.

Speakers include:
Bernhard Beutler
Simon Dardick
Gregory Dudek
and Michael Gnarowski.

Stephen Morrissey and Marc Plourde will read.

A wine and cheese reception will follow.
This is a free event. All are welcome!

I'll be there. Please come and say hello.

Friday, October 12 @ 6:00pm

St Jax
1439 St. Catherine Street West (Bishop Street Entrance)

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09 October 2018

The Dustiest Bookcase: K is for Kelley


Short pieces on books I've always meant to review (but haven't).
They're in storage as we build our new home.
Patience, please.

I Found Cleopatra
Thomas P. Kelley
West Linn, OR: Fax Collector's Editions, [1977]
111 pages

Thomas P. Kelley was a regular in the early years of the Dusty Bookcase. From 2009 to 2012, his writing was the focus of a steady parade of posts, which included reviews of No Tears for Goldie (1949), Bad Men of Canada (1950), and two markedly different versions of The Fabulous Kelley (1968), a loving memoir about his snake oil-selling father.*

All this came to an end my review of 'The Soul Eater', a lost world story Kelley published in the May 1942 number of Uncanny Tales. Of all the things I've written on Kelley, it's my favourite. So what made me stop?

Something to do with the remaining Kelley titles in my collection, I suppose.


I wasn't much interested in taking time to separate truth from fiction in his books about the DonnellysSimon Gunanoot, and the Mad Trapper of Rat River. Things would've been different if I'd found a copy of this:


After The Black Donnellys and Vengeance of the Black Donnellys, I Found Cleopatra is Kelley's most reprinted work. First published in the Weird Tales (November 1938) – and again in Uncanny Tales (July 1941) – the novel has appeared three times in book form, most recently  in 1980 by Borgo Press. I found and bought my Fax Collector's Editions copy last summer.

It's now in a storage locker just outside the town of Merrickville, Ontario.

Wish it wasn't.


* Here I ignore my growing suspicion that Kelley was the author of No Place in Heaven, a 1949 News Stand Library pulp published under the name "Laura Warren."

Note: Not to be confused with I Found Cléopâtre, the 1988 account of my discovery a Montreal drag bar with the longest and cheapest Happy Hour in the whole damn city.


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03 October 2018

No Picnic



Murder's No Picnic
E.L. Cushing
London: Wright & Brown, 1956
188 pages

My latest Dusty Bookcase review, of E.L. Cushing's Murder's No Picnic, is now available gratis at the Canadian Notes & Queries website:
A House Full of Orphans
I wish I could say I liked the novel. I didn't. Given its cover, I was at the very least expecting a fun read. It wasn't. Regular readers may remember my enjoyment of Murder Without Regret. Now that was fun!


I don't know that I'll read anything more by Cushing. Her books aren't at all common and tend to be quite expensive. My warped copy of Murder's No Picnic was purchased earlier this year £16.00 from an English bookseller located somewhere in Devon. With shipping added, the thing set me back well over fifty dollars. The true first edition was published in 1953 by New York's Arcadia House. There has never been a Canadian edition. I don't expect we'll ever see one.

Not a Ricochet Books candidate.


01 October 2018

Archibald Lampman's 'In October' in October


The Poems of Archibald Lampman (Toronto: Musson, 1900)
IN OCTOBER
     Along the waste, a great way off, the pines
          Like tall slim priests of storm, stand up and bar
     The low long strip of dolorous red that lines
          The under west, where wet winds moan afar.
     The cornfields all are brown, and brown the meadows
          With the blown leaves' wind-heaped traceries,
     And the brown thistle stems that cast no shadows,
          And bear no bloom for bees. 
     As slowly earthward leaf by red leaf slips,
          The sad trees rustle in chill misery,
     A soft strange inner sound of pain-crazed lips,
          That move and murmur incoherently;
     As if all leaves, that yet have breath, were sighing,
          With pale hushed throats, for death is at the door,
     So many low soft masses for the dying
          Sweet leaves that live no more. 
     Here I will sit upon this naked stone,
          Draw my coat closer with my numbed hands,
     And hear the ferns sigh, and the wet woods moan,
          And send my heart out to the ashen lands;
     And I will ask myself what golden madness,
          What balmed breaths of dreamland spicery,
     What visions of soft laughter and light sadness
          Were sweet last month to me. 
     The dry dead leaves flit by with thin weird tunes,
          Like failing murmurs of some conquered creed,
     Graven in mystic markings with strange runes,
          That none but stars and biting winds may read;
     Here I will wait a little; I am weary,
          Not torn with pajn of any lurid hue,
     But only still and very gray and dreary,
          Sweet sombre lands, like you.

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24 September 2018

The Return of John Buell's Four Days



John Buell is Montreal's most unjustly neglected novelist, and this is his most unjustly neglected novel. Four Days is so strong a work that it alone caused Edmund Wilson to declare Buell one of Canada's foremost writers. Beginning with the 1962 Farrar, Straus & Culahy, the novel enjoyed several editions and translations, then slipped out of print in the early 'nineties.

No more.


This week sees its return, following The Pyx, John Buell's debut novel, as the thirteenth Ricochet Book published by Véhicule Press. Montreal writer Trevor Ferguson, also known by his "John Farrow" pen name, provides a new foreword. As Ricochet series editor, I'm proud to have worked with publishers Simon Dardick and Nancy Marelli in returning Four Days to print.

I first wrote about Four Days in this 2011 Dusty Bookcase review:
Four Days in Darkest Quebec
It is one of Canada's greatest novels.

Edmund Wilson would agree.

John Buell
1927 - 2013
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17 September 2018

The Dustiest Bookcase: J is for Jacob


Short pieces on books I've always meant to review (but haven't).
They're in storage as we build our new home.
Patience, please.

One Third of a Bill: Five Short Canadian Plays
Fred Jacob
Toronto: Macmillan, 1925
140 pages

The tenth anniversary of this blog is less than four months away, so how is it that I haven't reviewed a single play? I was, after all, a child star. My involvement in the theatre stretches back to the second grade,when I played Big Billy Goat in a touring production (we once performed at a neighbouring elementary school) of Three Billy Goat's Gruff. In all modesty, I think I earned the role because I had the deepest voice of all the boys.

It hasn't changed since.

Had I not spotted its subtitle, Five Canadian Short Plays, I wouldn't have bought One Third of a Bill. Fred Jacob's name meant nothing to me. Though he once served as dramatic and literary editor of the Mail & Empire, he doesn't feature in The Canadian Encylopedia or W.H. New's Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada. The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature demonstrates its superiority in devoting a portion of a sentence to the man under the entry "Novels in English: 1920 to 1940":
There were also Victor Lauriston's Inglorious Milton (1934), a mock epic of small-town literati, and the first two novels by Fred Jacob (1882-1926) [sic] of a planned (but never completed) four-part satire of Canadian life in the first quarter of the twentieth-century: Day Before Yesterday (1925) about the decline of upper-class domination in a small Ontario town, and Peevee (1928), about the posturing and affectations of a rising middle class.
I've since learned that the small town in Day Before Yesterday was modelled on Elora, Ontario, in which Jacob was born and raised. A roman à clef, it didn't go down well with the locals, as reflected in this online listing from Thunder Bay's Letters Bookshop:
Macmillan of Canada, Toronto, 1925. Hardcover. Condition: Very good plus. 1st Edition. 320pp; gilt black filled cloth, lacking jacket; 197 x 131 x 41 mm. The author's controversial second book, the introductory novel in a projected series of four studies of 19th-century rural Ontario communities; preceded the same year, by a collection of plays. A native of Elora, Fred Jacob (1882-1928), lacrosse afficianado, was employed as a Toronto Mail & Empire sports writer at the time of publication. Perceiving the story to be uncomplimentary to their forefathers, residents back home erupted in a torrent of condemnation for book & author alike, which inevitably led to less than favourable reviews. The author had nearly completed the somewhat redeeming second volume, PeeVee (1928), at the time of his untimely demise. Ink inscription on ffe, dated Jan 31st, 1926. Light wear to boards; with a touch of waterstain to a portion of the book-block at upper tip. Exceedingly scarce.
Exceeding scarce is right!

The copy described above is one of only two listed for sale online. Unsurprisingly, the Wellington County Library, which serves Elora, doesn't have a copy (or any other Jacob title). Seems a candidate for acquisition. Here's the link to the Letters Bookshop listing:
Day Before Yesterday
Incidentally, Letters gets right what The Oxford Companion gets wrong: the year of Jacob's death. Here's how the sad event was reported in the Mail & Empire:

The Mail & Empire
7 June 1928

16 September 2018

The Reverend Cody Cover Cavalcade



On this sunny Sunday, the third post concerning Reverend H.A. Cody this month, all part of an effort to atone for ignoring the man these past fifty years. Of his twenty-five tomes, I've read only The Girl at Bullet Lake, reviewed here last week.

I'm not entirely adverse to reading another. Any suggestions?

The Oxford Companion to Canadian Literature doesn't much help, nor does W.H. New's Encyclopedia of Literature in Canada. The dust jacket of The Girl at Bullet Lake offers eight suggestions. I've narrowed them down to three:

Under Sealed Orders
New York: Doran, 1917
"Mystery and intrigue in connection with a water-power scheme."

Not to be confused with the wonderfully entertaining Grant Allen novel of the same name.


The Touch of Abner
New York: Doran, 1919
"An amusing story of love and adventure."

The spiciest title in the reverend's bibliography.


The Master Revenge
Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1927
"A big, kindly-hearted, beloved man suffers for another's crime."

I'm guessing that crime has something to do with handsaws.

Has anyone else read Cody?

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12 September 2018

'Strangely Entangled in the Threads of Love'



The Girl at Bullet Lake
H.A. Cody
Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1933
304 pages

Nine years ago, I suggested that Isabel Ecclestone Mackay's Up the Hill and Over features "the most improbable coincidence in all of Canadian literature." I haven't changed my opinion – not yet, at least – but I will say, without reservation, that H.A. Cody's The Girl at Bullet River has more coincidences than any novel I've ever read. The first comes in the first scene, in which protagonist Robert Rutledge's doctor prescribes rest and relaxation away from the big city:
“Bullet Lake will do you fine. And there is a snug house on the shore, known as ‘Bullet House.’ It is not a very poetical name, I admit, but that will make no difference, Si Acres will charge you something, but it will be worth it. There is excellent fishing there, too.”
      “Where is this wonderful paradise, doctor?”
      “It is not far away, only a few miles back from the river at Glengrow. You surely must know the place.”
     “I know Glengrow, for my sister lives there.”
There follows a steady stream of improbabilities. Their number is so great that they consume much of my review of The Girl at Bullet Lake, likely the first in 85 years, which was posted today at the Canadian Notes & Queries website. You can read it here:
Little More Than Coincidence
C'est gratuit!


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